Chicago Cubs: Remember when we traded for Nomar Garciaparra?
Looking to win after coming tantalizingly close to a title in 2003, the Chicago Cubs traded for a fan favorite infielder from the Boston Red Sox.
On the heels of an NLCS appearance the fall prior, the Chicago Cubs had their eyes set on a return to the postseason in 2004. After a 47-40 first half, general manager Jim Hendry looked for an upgrade at shortstop – and found one in former Rookie of the Year and five-time All-Star Nomar Garciaparra.
Chicago acquired Garciaparra in a four-team deal that included the Boston Red Sox, Montreal Expos and Minnesota Twins. Here’s how it broke down:
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- Boston traded Garciaparra and Matt Murton (yes, that Matt Murton) to Chicago. Minnesota traded first baseman Doug Mientkiewicz to the Red Sox. Montreal sent shortstop Orlando Cabrera to Boston. Meanwhile, Chicago traded Francis Beltran, Alex Gonzalez and Brendan Harris to the Expos and minor leaguer Justin Jones to Minnesota.
Now, hindsight is 20/20. We all know. That looking back on that deal through that lens is particularly interesting. Then-Red Sox GM Theo Epstein hit on both Mientkiewicz and Cabrera, both of whom played critical roles for Boston in their curse-breaking 2004 World Series championship run.
Of course, Epstein went on to break another curse in Wrigleyville 12 years later, helping the Cubs erase 108 years of disappointment and heartbreak. Hendry, meanwhile, was hoping Garciaparra, in the final year of his contract, could be the missing piece for his ball club. Chicago hit the deadline 10 1/2 games back of St. Louis, so a Wild Card berth seemed to be their only chance at playing that fall.
After joining the Cubs, the former first-rounder cooled off a tepid pace he carried through the month of July. Leading up to the trade, Garciaparra was tearing the cover off the ball, slashing .386/.438/.591 in 21 games. In the month of August, he still produced respectable numbers, hitting four home runs with seven doubles and 16 RBI to go along with his .343 OBP.
Although his averaged dipped in the season’s final month, he put up a .392 on-base percentage over his final 18 contests – but his power evaporated, with his slugging percentage falling over 100 points from his August production. In the end, the addition of Garciaparra wasn’t enough for Chicago to return to the postseason, as the Cubs finished three games behind Houston for the Wild Card berth.
Hendry opted to bring back the veteran in 2005 on a one-year, $8.25 million deal. That didn’t work out, as Garciaparra appeared in just 62 games that season, putting up the lowest OPS of his career since 1996, when he made his big league debut. Of course, he followed that up by winning American League Rookie of the Year honors in 1997, earning a Silver Slugger and his first All-Star appearance.
Naturally, Garciaparra bookended his brief Cubs tenure with All-Star appearances. After heading to the Midsummer Classic in 2003, he made his first NL All-Star team in 2006 after inking a deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, the final time he would do so in his career.